Monday, May 30, 2011

Long Mountain - A.T., May 19, 2011

On a beautiful and cool morning on May 19th, I hiked a couple of sections of the A.T. I had not hiked since back in 1993.  I started where U.S. 60 crosses the A.T.  U.S. 60 connects Amherst and Lexington, and there is a large wayside at the A.T. called the Long Mountain Wayside.  This parking area was 66 miles from Charlottesville, and took an hour and 10 minutes to reach.

Brown Mountain Creek Shelter with an A.T. thru-hiker.
The wayside has an unusual geocache - rated one star for access (so someone on a wheelchair could reach it) and three stars for difficulty (tricky hide).  I could not find it!  But I came back a few weeks later and located it thanks to a better read from the GPS.

From U.S. 60, I headed south and down the mountain to the Brown Mountain Creek A.T. Shelter.  This part of the hike is totally wooded, without views.  There is a sign along the trail telling hikers to look for signs of an old community that was down here.  People farmed the area until the land was sold to the Forest Service back in the 1920's.  Foundations were clearly visible off of the trail.

Gracie the Hiking Dog checks out the bridge
at Brown Mountain Creek.
I spoke with several A.T. thru-hikers at the shelter, and others were camping in the area.  The area has great campsites, something I did not remember from my previous hike through here.

After finding a geocache near the shelter I started the long climb back up.  The shelter is at about 1500 feet above sea level, and over the next several miles the A.T.  climbs up to over 4000 feet in elevation.  So this is a long haul hike when started from the shelter, almost as long as the hike up the Priest.  I felt my previous inactivity!  I was ready to reach the top of Bald Mountain, and was hurting for several days after this hike.

There were lots of hikers on the trail, which was surprising for a Thursday in May.  I ran into at least 5 thru-hikers, and a couple of section hikers.  I think I was the only day hiker out there.  I mentioned my purpose to a couple of section hikers - to check out possible campsites for a Boy Scout backpacking trip - and got some really good advice, as one of them was a leader of a Richmond troop.

Trail sign for northbound hikers at U.S. 60.
And I didn't feel so bad about struggling up the mountain when I came across a thru-hiker halfway down the mountain who asked if we were near the top.  She said that the hike was really getting to her that day.  And she had hiked there from Georgia!
Trillium in bloom at 3000 feet elevation.
I did not recommend this hike for the Boy Scout Troop, opting instead for a hike a few miles further north that only hikes a small part of the A.T.  We will be hiking that section in a few weeks and I'll report on that hike after we complete it.
Near the top of Bald Mountain.

But hiking this section gives me a taste to go back and re-hike sections I haven't hiked in nearly 20 years.  Too bad the heat has arrived in Virginia. Today's forecasted 95 degree Memorial Day temps leaves me little incentive to head up into the mountains!
Elevation Profile
Hike Details:
Total Altitude Gain 3010 feet 
Total Distance 9.3 miles
Lowest point 1388 feet above sea level
Highest Point 4049 feet above sea level 
Time: 4 hours, 51 minutes

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